It has been a few days now since the Panvel Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) was immortalized as the first place where the “demonetization bomb” hit the BJP.
Yes, history will remember that this agricultural market committee poll was the harbinger of change. This is the moment when India’s fortunes changed forever and Modi’s star faded into oblivion. The result of this poll was circulated on timelines of Lutyens celebrities till the whole nation knew about Panvel Agricultural Produce Market Committee. Just when Panvel APMC’s name was about to be inscribed in golden letters in the history of humanity, came a host of elections: from bypolls in Madhya Pradesh and Bengal and Assam…then 147 municipalities across Maharashtra with a voter turnout of 70% and local body polls in Gujarat. Much to the surprise of ever expert who had taken Panvel APMC to be the most appropriate indicator for 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP put up stunningly powerful performances in these other elections. Due to local factors, of course 🙂
Lutyens journos were irritated. How can people not see that Panvel APMC poll is a clear referendum on Modi whereas all these are polls in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Gujarat are based on local factors? This led to a really interesting catfight on twitter that I feel I must report to you 🙂
It all started when CVoter’s Yashwant Desmukh dared to go public with his doubts about the Lutyens consensus view.
Come on Yashwant, how dare you!! How dare you say that intellectuals are “out of sync”? Intellectuals do a daily survey of the mood of the masses by speaking to their cook, maid and driver. And when Yashwant put out this tweet, he was simply tempting fate:
This is the limit! First you reject the idea that Panvel APMC polls are a referendum on Modi. Then you question the expertise of journalists!
There had to be a smackdown. And who better to deliver it than Hartosh Singh Bal.
Good one, Hartosh. Intellectual = anyone who uses intellect? This must be the reason Hartosh took up journalism instead of mathematics : real sciences do not allow people to make a rhetorical point by playing on double meanings of words.
Just to remind people, Hartosh Singh Bal is a “mathematician” trained at NYU
Now, personally, I would humbly suggest that “mathematician” is a title that can hardly be given as lightly as the title of”journalist”. Typically it would require a person to give evidence of substantial original research in mathematics, usually in addition to a PhD and several years of postdoctoral scholarship (at least…at the very very very least). But then, most journalists would barely pass math of Class 12 level. With his postgraduate degree in Mathematics, Hartosh Singh Bal is probably the most scientifically literate person the journalists have met in their lifetime.
But Yashwant tried to question the intellectual again:
This led to another smackdown from the expert:
Correct. Instead of going out and trying to measure things in the field like a humble pollster, an intellectual uses his divine third eye to guess the public mood. This must be another reason Hartosh quit science. Scientists have a superstition that to understand something, you must measure it. Intellectuals know that to understand something, you need guesswork.
Yashwant should know the golden rule of talking to an intellectual. Never bring up 2014. It hurts.
By now, Economic Times’ Rohini Singh had also joined the conversation, obviously on the side of intellectual guesswork. Yes Hartosh, history will surely remember that the media did not vilify Narendra Modi enough. Narendra Modi — darling of the media!
Then, Yashwant did something truly terrible. He asked for data. That’s another reason Hartosh left science.
Well, who needs data when the demand for evidence can be easily countered with a personal attack? Show them Hartosh.
Easy to find and pay a pollster to get the desired conclusion. Much easier, for instance, than finding an intellectual who can be paid to write. Intellectuals would *never* be unethical. All intellectuals agree.
But Rohini was still itching…
You can feel the irritation in these tweets. The intellectuals have the conclusion ready, but the public is simply not cooperating. Not in opinion polls. Not in real polls. There is little left to do in Lutyens Delhi other than to be mean to people.
Now, I could dig up tweets of journos on the public mood… on the recent bypolls… on Assam … on Modi’s chances of becoming PM. It’s been done so many times. But I would rather enjoy the catfight in the media.
Oh…and what’s my take on this? Simple. Pollsters over journalists. Because pollsters are at least out there using scientific techniques to understand things. Journos, for the most part, are simply talking out of their behinds. And no…speaking to cook/maid/driver or even a clump of people on the side of the road is NOT a usable scientific sample. Those are just that…anecdotes. And data beats anecdotes. Sure, you could pay a pollster. But, you could just as well pay a journalist. So, nothing to choose there. Other than that, pollsters have access to a real science. If a pollster wants to be honest, their conclusions would actually be worth something. Journos use anecdotes and have pretty much nothing else to go on. Even if journos tried to be honest, their views would always be worthless. Science over guesswork. Every single time.